Got Rice?

Bunga Raya metes out a mediocre taste of Malaysia

The pathetic souls on Blind Date only get one shot with each other, but I give Bunga Raya another chance, coming back on another evening. I could cheat and order the more familiar items — satay chicken, deep-fried spareribs, teriyaki chicken or chicken lo mein. But Malaysian is the mission and, this time, dinner and I are a more compatible couple. It's not true love, but there's a chance we could be friends.

Nasi lemak is a jarring but compelling union of coconut rice, chili anchovies, egg, cucumber and peanuts that manages to be cool and spicy, sweet and tart. Fu-yu kangkung makes me want to visit the Asian market next door to the restaurant (it's closed for the evening) to pick up some of the dish's star ingredient, on-choy. The bitterish, mushroom/spinach-flavored green is stir-fried with shredded pepper in preserved bean curd sauce that's thin, slippery and mellow.

And forget rice — my new favorite starch is roti canai, an Indian pancake that's grilled golden and crispy/flaky like a croissant. I tear a strip, dunk it in accompanying chicken curry and savor every bit of the messy dish. This is more predictable curry, soaking chicken, red pepper and bay leaves in a milky broth. Too bad the poultry is so ugly, with muscle-bound gnarly knots of dark meat.

The Malaysian food at Bunga Raya won't bowl anyone over.
Erik Guzowski
The Malaysian food at Bunga Raya won't bowl anyone over.


Hainanese chicken: $4.50
Beef rendang: $8.95
Roti canai: $2.75
Curry mee: $5.95

480-898-8222. Hours: Lunch and dinner, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

502 South Dobson, Mesa

Curry mee comes closest to my dream date. I've found a startlingly good dish that's light enough to get me through August's heat wave. It's a soup of curried chicken broth stocked with egg noodles, a loaf of deep-fried tofu, eggplant, minced fish dumplings and shrimp paste-stuffed chiles (red and green; the red blister my tongue).

Bunga Raya and I struck out. But I saw a new rice steamer the other day that looked pretty cute. I think I'll take it home with me and see how that turns out. Now who's the pathetic one?

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